Kirstie Leightley’s international showjumping vlog: a bittersweet Hickstead

Last week we packed up and headed to my favourite show — the Hickstead Derby meeting.

This year was a little bittersweet for me as Thais had a small strain injury at the last show she jumped at, so we sadly had to give her the month off. There is never a good time for anything to happen to the horses, but this was particularly hard for me as I was so looking forward to seeing what she could do in the Speed Derby after she did so well last year. We had always planned for Sunshine to have a holiday for three weeks while I was away, so because of this we didn’t think it was fair to take her to Hickstead in place of Thais. This meant we made the decision to just take the national horses for the week.

Hickstead is definitely one of my favourite venues and I look forward to attending every year. The going is always perfect in the national rings and you can’t fault the International Arena. The team there are always making improvements to the showground, which really shows when you arrive. The new Equine America Arena, which has replaced the old Ring 3, is another great all-weather arena and it was great to be able to jump the national horses in such a big ring.

Hickstead always seems to be very manic for us! Guy (Williams, who I work for) has a very impressive record there, so can often be found jumping going back and forth between the main ring and the back rings, juggling jumping his horses and training the rest of the team. He tries to get across to help myself and Lily as much as he can to warm us up and talk us through our rounds. But there are only so many hours in the day and quite often he ends up watching videos of our rounds and we tend to talk everything over once we have jumped.

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We are very lucky that between us that there is a huge support team. For me, Hickstead is relatively local to where I grew up, so it was lovely to have my family and friends there to support me (and hold a couple of horses when needed!). As a team we try and support each other wherever we can — we think it’s important to make the effort to watch each other in the ring and help each other in any way possible. It is slightly harder to do at Hickstead though as the sheer number of rings means we can all be jumping at the same time!

We are now looking at getting the mares back up and going in the next couple of weeks. Although it was gutting to not have either of them at Hickstead, I think it will mean they come back fresher and feeling better than ever.

K x

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